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Liberal SF mayor rips advocates for doling out tents to homeless

By Jake Beardslee · September 26, 2023

In brief…

  • SF Mayor Breed criticized advocates for giving out free tents and encouraging the the city's large and growing homeless population to refuse shelter.
  • A court ruling said city officials can clear camps of people who were offered shelter but declined.
  • Data show that 54% of homeless approached by the city refused shelter.
  • Breed expects advocacy groups will try to block the clearing encampments.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed accused advocates of promoting living on the streets by providing homeless free tents.  JCruzTheTruth/Wikimedia

Progressive San Francisco Mayor London Breed voiced frustration with homeless advocates who, she said, are enabling people to live on the city’s sidewalks and streets by giving them free tents while encouraging them to opt out of the city-funded shelter system.

“These activists are the same people who hand out tents to keep people on the street instead of working to bring them indoors, as we are trying to do,” Breed said in a post on Medium. “And they are the same people instructing and encouraging people to refuse shelter — to remain on the street instead of going indoors. Their agenda is clear.”

Breed’s comments come after an appeals court ruled Monday that the city can resume clearing homeless encampments if individuals decline shelter when it is offered. Breed called the ruling “a step in the right direction.”

San Francisco has roughly 8,000 homeless residents, with about half choosing to refuse services and shelter, according to local TV station Kron4. Data from a survey conducted by the city’s Healthy Streets Operation Center showed that of 2,344 homeless people who approached, 1,278 or 54% declined shelter.

Breed predicted the nonprofit Coalition on Homelessness, which sued the city claiming it improperly cleared encampments, will try to block implementation of the court order.

“Unfortunately, the plaintiffs in this case will still be out interfering with [our] work,” Breed said. “They will film our city workers. They will try to tell our workers what they can and cannot do.”

She said city workers will be trained in the coming weeks on what they are allowed to clear under the appellate court’s instructions.

In their proposed legal settlement, the Coalition on Homeless demanded the city fill all vacant shelter beds within 30 days and maintain a waitlist tracking availability. They also want an “emergency stop-gap measure” leading to permanent housing, better trash disposal near encampments, and for cleanings not to occur at night when residents sleep.

“Everyone, including unhoused people, wants streets free of trash and debris. Such cleaning schedules must follow postage signage and should not be conducted between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. when unhoused residents are trying to sleep,” the Coalition wrote. “The city cannot use street cleanings as a pretext to harass unhoused residents instead of appropriately cleaning the area.”

San Francisco continues to be plagued by high crime and declining services and quality of life as many residents depart the City by the Bay and retailers close shop.